Most important Projects of Public Health Nutrition

  • Underlying risk factors affecting the effectiveness of the nutritional therapeutic treatment protocol for complicated severely malnourished children in the Centre Hôspitalier Universitaire Souro, Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. (2018-2022)
    Funding: BOF (Special Research Fund - Doctoral Scholarships for Candidates from Developing Countries
    Contact: Bintou Sanogo
  • Vitamin A status in children of 36-59 months of age in a malaria-endemic rural area in Burkina Faso. (2017-2021)
    Funding: Data collected under the Technical Cooperation Project, the International Atomic Energy Agency (Africa, Additional Funding for biochemical analyses and PhD completion: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CNRST), Burkina Faso ; MYTOX-SOUTH traineeships PhD students 2019 (
    Contact: Sombie Olivier
  • Integrated health and agriculture services for improved household food security and nutritional status of mothers and children under five years of age in Ethiopia. (2019-2022)
    Funding: Children's Investment Fund Foundation Additional funding to carry out the PhD studies from the University of California, Davis (
    Contact: Girmay Ayana Mersha 
  • Effects of daily supplementation with spirulina fortified cereals on the nutritional status and treatment outcomes of people living with HIV/AIDS in Chad (2018-2022).
    Funding: Data collected under the Technical Cooperation Project, the International Atomic Energy Agency (Africa,
    Contact: Alain Nahaskida  
  • The bidirectional stress-obesity relation: mediating role of low-grade inflammation and gut microbiota.  (2015-2021)
    Researchers still struggle to understand the complex processes by which psychosocial factors like chronic stress increase disease susceptibility. This project will elucidate mechanistic pathways in the bidirectional stress-obesity relation, i.e. the mediating role of food choice, low-grade inflammation and disturbed gut microbiota. Observational and interventional research will be combined in community samples and clinical samples during childhood: (a) longitudinal pathways in the existing ChiBS cohort; (b) contrasting groups on depression and overweight to unravel individual risk factors; and (c) two innovating interventions to substantiate new treatments by effects on inflammation, gut microbiota, stress sensitivity and energy-homeostasis i.e. prebiotics in depression and emotional regulation training in obesity. We will have detailed gut microbiota (sequencing, gut barrier and bacterial activity by short-chain fatty acids) and inflammation-status information; additional metabolomics data; both psychological and biological indicators of the stress status and laboratory induced stress reactivity; objectively measured adiposity parameters.
    Funding: Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)
  • Understanding Obesity in Young Adolescents: the Role of Emotion Regulation (2017-2021)
    This multidisciplinary project aims to prove that studying emotion regulation for restoring the psychological and physiological homeostasis is a promising progress for a profound understanding of the obesity problem. We aim to exceed current expertise on obesity with various complementary study designs: case-control, lab-study (with mood induction and food lab) and a randomized-clinical-trial on emotion regulation. Evidence will come from psychological and physiological outcome measures by measuring cortisol, heart-rate-variability, inflammation, energy-homeostasis, metabolomics, anthropometrics, emotion regulation, eating behavior, lifestyle, parenting, stress and other psychological constructs.
    Funding: Ghent University: GOA and IOP
  • Blue health: the restoration capacity of the coast (2019-2022)
    The aim is to quantify the psychological and physiological restoration potential of the different coastal environments and attributes along the Belgian coast, using photo experiments, virtual reality and real exposures after stress induction. Also, social and physical activities performed in the different coastal environments, and the consequent health implications will be quantified using a large-scale survey and distinguished between coastal residents and tourists from inland.
    Funding: VLIZ
  • BELICCA: BEtter LIfestyle in Cognitive and Cardiovascular Aging (2017-2020)
    Cognitive and cardiovascular morbidity are highly prevalent, urging for early prevention. Since we consider adolescence a crucial time herein, we propose to follow-up our existing sample of adolescents 10 years after their first examination to document the evolution between adolescence and young adulthood. We aim to investigate the impact of lifestyle factors in adolescence on cognitive and cardiovascular aging during young adulthood. Studied lifestyle factors are nutrition, alcohol intake, physical activity & fitness, stress, sleep and smoking. Studied underlying mechanistic phenotypes are inflammation, gut microbiota, metabolomics, telomere length, epigenetics and oxidative stress
    Funding: partly Alpro Foundation
  • Intake of polyphenols in European adolescents and its association with early metabolic markers of healthy ageing (2016-2019)
    Based on the European HELENA study in +-3000 adolescents, dietary intake of polyphenols has been estimated and linked to health outcomes. Health outcomes include overweight, glucose homeostasis, blood pressure, lipid homeostasis, inflammation and anti-oxidant capacity. In a subset, a 10-year follow-up has been done.
    Funding: Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education
    Based on the European HELENA study in +-3000 adolescents, the anti-inflammatory associations of a Mediterranean diet is tested. The hypothesis is that the Mediterranean diet can moderate the association between lifestyle factors or genetic polymorphisms and inflammation.
  • Lifestyle and telomeres (2015-2019). This study is based on two existing cohorts (a newborn at University Hasselt and child-adolescent cohort at University Ghent). The objectives of this research proposal include:
    1/ To investigate specific DNA methylation and gene expression alterations in placental tissues and cord blood of newborns and from blood leukocytes in childhood to adolescents in association with telomere length to define a telomere interactome in the first two decades of life.
    2/ To study placental molecular processes for the identification of health risks posed by cumulative environmental and dietary exposures during the foetal period.
    3/ To study determinants of the telomere interactome including air pollution (fine particulates), dietary patterns, vitamin D status, body composition, stress (perinatal stress and childhood stress coping) and sleep quantity and quality in newborns, children and adolescents.
    4/ To investigate whether telomere length and its defined transcriptome/interactome (objective 1) is a potential mediator between the studied determinants (objective 3) and clinical phenotypes  including micro-circulation, heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure
    Funding: Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)
  • REWARD (2012-2016)The REWARD project aims to develop and investigate innovative perspectives and methodologies to substantially increase the likelihood of healthier dietary habits in children and adolescents. The project defends a paradigm-shift towards a reward-based approach within a bio-psycho-social model.
    Study objectives are:
    1. Provide scientific evidence that reward based interventions improve eating habits in infants and adolescents.
    2. Assess/quantify the associations between reward sensitivity and known determinants for (un-healthy) eating styles. Assess how reward based schedules work in food contexts and how this can be introduced in child/adolescent settings.
    3. Develop an assessment tool to measure the environmental reward character and its potential for infants and young children.
    4. Develop and study reward-based interventions through feeding styles and feeding environments for infants and young children. Develop and study reward-based interventions through a serious urban game embedded in a school environment.
    Funding: IWT (agentschap voor Innovatie door Wetenschap en Technologie).
  • I.FAMILY (2012-2017)
    I.Family will build on a cohort of more than 16,000 children aged 2 to 9 years at baseline in eight European countries ranging from Cyprus in the south to Sweden in the north and from Spain in the west to Estonia in the east, established during the course of the IDEFICS study, an Integrated Project funded within the 6th EU-Framework Programme. I.Family offers the unique opportunity to study dietary behaviour and food choice with focus on whole families and their lifestyle. A new and enhanced follow-up survey of this cohort in the year 2012/2013, when the age range of the children will be 7 to 15 years, will be the starting point of I.Family. In a longitudinal perspective, baseline data on dietary behaviour and interacting factors will be related to behaviours and health outcomes observed years later in the same individuals. Measurements comparable to the baseline survey will enable the identification of prognostic factors that determine health behaviour in general, and healthy food choice in particular. The data on health and nutrition behaviour will be complemented with data on parenting style and family life, by including siblings and parents. Thus, a full picture of diet and the interplay of diet-related factors in whole families will be obtained accounting for social and environmental factors.
    Funding: EC FP 7 Project Number 266044
  • Nutrition in times of examination stress (2016-2017)
    Research suggests that stress deteriorates our food choices and dietary intake. The current project will measure the diet of university students before and during the examination period. Goal is to verify the deterioration of diet during the stressful examination period (type of food; amount of food) and especially to identify risk groups (those that will be most influenced). Apart from dietary info, also information will be available on physical activity, sleep, stress perception and possible underlying explanations: socio-economic status, social environment, physical environment, demographics, emotional eating, reward sensitivity, maladaptive coping).
    Funding: none 
  •  The relation between chronic stress and inflammation in children and adolescents: measuring tryphan breakdown (2015-2017)
    Both inflammation and chronic stress have been associated with increased morbidity (e.g. cardiovascular) and mortality. Moreover, literature is increasingly convinced of a bidirectional relation with mutual stimulation. A recent finding is that stress and inflammation might stimulate the breakdown of tryphan, the precursor of the mood-regulating serotonin. This pathway is mainly based on clinical samples of depression and lab animals. Therefore, the goal of our study is to test the relation between stress, tryphan breakdown and inflammation in a child and adolescent population sample, respectively the ChiBS cohort 2010-2015 (stress questionnaires and hair cortisol) and the European HELENA-sample (stress questionnaires and salivary cortisol). In addition, we will test the moderating and mediating role of tryphan breakdown in the longitudinal relation between stress, diet and the metabolic syndrome.
    Funding: Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) 
  • DEDIPAC (Determinants of Diet and Physical Activity) (2013-2016)
    DEDIPAC is a multidisciplinary consortium of scientists from 68 research centers in 12 countries across Europe. The main objective of DEDIPAC is to understand the determinants of dietary, physical activity and sedentary behaviours and to translate this knowledge into a more effective promotion of a healthy diet and physical activity.
    Funding: EU: JPI HDHL
    Collaboration: 68 research centers in 12 countries across Europe
  • ENPADASI (European Nutritional Phenotype Assessment Data Sharing Initiative) (2015-2017)
    The main objective of ENPADASI is to deliver an open access research infrastructure that will contain data from a wide variety of nutritional studies, ranging from mechanistic/interventions to epidemiological studies including a multitude of phenotypic outcomes that will facilitate combined analyses in the future.
    Funding: EU: JPI HDHL
    Collaboration: 51 partners from 9 Member States 
  • DEPS (drink, eat and pee at school) (2014-2015)
    Observational studies in various countries all suggest that water intake in children is insufficient. Since children spend a large proportion of their time at school, it would be interesting to know the children’s hydration status at school and the effect of school policy. For this study, urine from 451 Belgian primary school children (8-13y) was collected during the school to analyse osmolality as hydration marker. Goals were:
    1) Describe the hydration status by urinary osmolality in Belgian children when they arrive at school and during the school day. Compare status with other countries.
    2) Test whether school policy is a determinant of hydration status at school and of the frequency of drinking and urinating.
    3) Describe the usual intake of beverages (amount, type, portion size) in Belgian children and compare this with the recommendation.
    4) Test whether fluid intake is related to overall diet quality.
    Funding: spadel nv 
  • Body Image Perception and Associated Obesity Risk in Ghanaian Adolescents (2014-2015)
    The purpose of the study was to explore the body image perceptions and its associated obesity risk in Ghanaian adolescents. The study was cross-sectional involving 370 Ghanaian adolescents, 11-18yrs.  Questionnaires were used to obtain information on beliefs about body size, body size perceptions (Stunkard figures), physical activity (IPAQ), eating behaviour (EAT26), diet quality (FFQ) and media (SATAQ). Anthropometric measurements (weight, height, skinfold, waist circumference) were also performed.
    Funding: none 
  • READY-TO-EAT CEREALS (2013-2015)
    The purpose of this study is to examine the intakes (both amount and frequency) of ready-to-eat cereals, RTEC, among European adolescents. Furthermore, the effect of socio-demographic determinants like age, sex, social demographic status will be studied.
    This will be done by using data from an existing database from the study Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence (HELENA) ( HELENA is the first large-scale European survey to provide data on attitude towards nutrition and the main determinants of the food choice and preference among male and female European adolescents (see also Moreno et al 2008).
    Funding: Nestlé S.A. 
    This project aims to study the cross-sectional and longitudinal association between chronic psychosocial stress and body composition - in more detail the amount of body fat - in children between 5 and 12 years old. The interaction with physical activity, sleep and energy intake will be studied as well. For determining fat mass percentage, the unit purchased a BOD POD® device based on whole-body air-displacement plethysmography. A second, parallel aim is to test the feasibility and interrelationships of different stress measurements in children: the practical utility of salivary and hair cortisol measurements and heart rate variability as a diagnostic tool for chronic stress in children will be examined.
    Funding: "Special Research Fund" (BOF), Ghent University; Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) 
    The aim of this project is to study the influence of lifestyle on the evolution of bone health in Flemish children, 2 to 12 years old. A cohort of 1000 children set up in 2008 is used. These children are followed during four years and examined three times (2008, 2010, 2012). The first objective includes the study of the evolution of bone health over this 4-year period, using a calcaneal quantitative ultrasound measurement (QUS) at the three measurement moments and a whole body scan with dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) (2012). Second, biomarkers and hormones relevant for bone metabolism and growth will be analysed in blood samples and studied in relation to the QUS and DEXA results. Third, the association between nutrition, physical activity level and fitness as well as the interaction between physical activity and nutrition on the evolution of bone health will be investigated. Within all these analyses, the association with children's body composition and other anthropometric measures will be taken into account. Finally, the predictive value of the QUS measurement for fracture risk in youth will be assessed as well as the association between birth and postnatal weight and the evolution of bone health.
    Funding: Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)
    Collaborators: the Department of Endocrinology and Unit for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases of the Ghent University Hospital 
    Fatty acids and lipid status has been increasingly related to non-communicable disease such as cardiovascular disease, inflammatory and auto-immune disorders. The main goal of the study is to investigate the interaction between the habitual diet of adolescents and their genetic predisposition on the fatty acid and lipid serum status. The focus will be put on the omega-3 and omega-6 balance. Furthermore, the usual dietary fatty acid intake and its determinants will be assessed and compared to the current guidelines. The objectives will be studied in a European population of adolescents, aged 12.5-17.5 years old, recruited in the framework of the HELENA cross-sectional study (see below)
    Funding: Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)
    Collaborators: Institut Pasteur de Lille, Université Lille, Nord de France, INSERM U744, France 
    Toybox is a European project that aims to study behavioural models for the prevention of obesity, with a particular focus on children. In this project, multidisciplinary analysis to identify the key behaviours related to obesity in early childhood will be used and new behavioural research will be conducted to explain why young children eat the foods they eat and why they do (or do not) participate in physical activity at a local level. ToyBox will review and evaluate behavioural models and educational strategies to identify best practices in changing children's behaviours. Based on the obtained insights, a multidisciplinary team will develop and implement a new intervention programme, that could be applied on a European scale, primarily aiming to influence children's behaviours and prevent obesity, evaluate its impact, outcome and cost-effectiveness and contribute to the activities of the EU platform on Diet and Physical Activity and Health and to support decision making for European Public Health Policy.
    Website of the project:
    Funding: European Union 7th Framework Program 
    Advances in the knowledge concerning physiological functions of dietary poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have led to an increased interest in the food sources and the level of dietary intake of these nutrients. Representative data on the intake of these fatty acids (FA) for the Belgian adult population were lacking. Therefore, this study aimed to describe data on the intake and the food sources of individual omega-6 and omega-3 PUFA for the Belgian adult population, using data from the first Belgian Food Consumption Survey were used.
    Funding: Unilever Benelux 
  • IDEFICS: Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infants (2006-2012)
    The main aim is to identify risk profile inventories for children susceptible to overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and comorbid conditions. Also tailored preventions strategies are developed, where genetic and non-genetic, psychosocial and social factors are considered. The impact of sensory perception is investigated by population based studies and results concerning internal and external factors, children's consumer behaviour and short and long-term effects food choices are provided.
    Website of the project:
    Funding: European Union 6th Framework Program
  •  PANCAKE: Pilot study for the Assessment of Nutrient intake and Food consumption among kids in Europe (2010-2011)
    The PANCAKE project was a pilot study for EFSA, as part of their activities towards a pan-European food consumption survey ‘What is on the Menu in Europe - EU-Menu'. The pilot study focused on the youngest age groups of the population, i.e. infants, toddlers and children up to 10 years of age. Tools, materials, and protocols were developed, pilot tested, and evaluated.
    A main objective of the project was to recommend one of two possible dietary assessment methods and attached administration protocols. This was either 1) a consecutive 3-day food diary with data entry afterwards or 2) two non-consecutive 1-day food diaries with diary completion interviews. The Epic-Soft European computer program for 24-hour dietary protocols, personalized into a Belgian (Flemish) version, was used to estimate the intake of foods and nutrients.
    Funding: Federal Public Service Health